Taking Away the Dealer’s Edge

Did you know that the edge in an average game of blackjack starts out at around 7.8%? This applies to blackjack in a brick and mortar casino and to online blackjack. Does not matter where you find your blackjack, it all starts out at 7.8%

So if blackjack starts out at 7.8% why do most places tell you it really starts at around 5%?

That one is simple to answer really and it is the most direct to take away the dealer’s edge. All you need to do is play in a blackjack game in which you receive a 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack. That is it. It is that easy. A 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack takes 2.35% off of the dealer’s edge, dropping it down to 5.45%.

The reason a 3-2 payout cuts into the dealer’s edge so much is because, while you are getting paid for nothing more than being lucky enough to be dealt 21 in two cards, the dealer receives nothing if he is dealt a natural blackjack.

Want to know another couple of easy ways that a blackjack player can hit the dealer’s edge?

There are two common place player plays that knock some off of the dealer’s edge: double down and splitting pairs. Having the ability to double down knocks a healthy 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge, while splitting pairs takes 0.4% off.

Now while the rules help, you need to actually double down and split pairs. Think of the increased opportunities to make a profit.

The reason that a 3-2 payout, doubling down and splitting pairs hits the house edge in blackjack is because these are opportunities for profit that the house does not have. Think about it. The dealer does not receive a special payout for a natural blackjack. And he cannot double down or split pairs either. When it comes to casino games, blackjack offers rules and plays that take away from the dealer’s edge without too much effort on the player’s part.

So if you really want to be that smart blackjack player take advantage of the rules and payouts that are available to you.

Dealer’s Chances of Busting

I have never met a blackjack player who would not like to know when the dealer will bust. It would make the blackjack so much easier to play in terms of a player’s betting strategy.

Unfortunately it is impossible to know exactly when the blackjack dealer is going to bust. The best we can do is know when the blackjack dealer has a better shot at busting his hand. And it is impossible to know exactly when he will bust, it is possible to know when his chances are higher.

This is kind of like knowing that you have a better shot at winning when the deck is running with high cards.

Anyway we already knew that about our chances of winning. What we want to know is when the dealer is more likely to bust. Below you will find a little list of all the dealer up cards along with the dealer’s chances of busting with those up cards:


So that being said, we know that the dealer has the biggest chance of busting when he is showing a 5 or 6. What can you do with such knowledge?

You work it into your blackjack strategy—that is what you do!

This does not replace card counting but it can help you somewhat in terms of your playing strategy and betting strategy. If you know the dealer is at his highest chances of busting it can help you to take advantage of the round.

Let’s say you have a hard 10 and the dealer is showing a 5. You know he is at his highest chances of busting, and you know that according to basic strategy you should be doubling down. By knowing that he is at his highest chances of busting it allows you to know that your double down has a better shot of being profitable. And that means that you should be more confident in doubling down.

Blackjack for Charity

Do you know what brick and mortar casinos do with the proceeds from their test dates? No? Well in western Pennsylvania they donate the proceeds from test dates to charity. That means any money you lose at the blackjack table is going to a good cause.

That might even be a very good reason to lose at blackjack.

The Meadows is set to open its doors and have its blackjack tables up and running on July 8th. However, before they turn the blackjack dealers loose, they need to make sure that their dealers are ready to go and see that operations at the table games will run smoothly when the new 68 table games, including the blackjack tables, are opened.

In Washington County, home of the Meadows, any revenue generated from table games like blackjack has to be donated to charity, minus the portion that is paid to the government in taxes of course.

Since the Meadows opening in 2007 they have had several test dates for various additions to their casino. Former recipients of test day revenue have been volunteer fire departments, the Washington County Food Bank, the Washington Women’s Shelter and the Washington Hospital. But the recipient of the July 6th test day revenue is going to be the United Way of Washington County.

So why is money from blackjack going to be going to the United Way? Sean Sullivan, Vice President and General Manager of the Meadows, said, “The United Way is an indispensable resource in Washington County, and we are grateful to be able to help this organization in its mission to improve the quality of life of people in our community.”

And whoever said nothing good comes from gambling?

Blackjack Intimidating?

I read this morning that blackjack is intimidating. Yes, I know, I was just as surprised. But apparently casino folk consider blackjack to be intimidating.

Now this rather puzzles me considering that blackjack does not have a lot of fancy rules and strategy. If you can add the numbers 1 through 11 then I do not see how blackjack can be hard. Add up the total of your first two cards, and decide if you want to try to increase your hand total by hitting or decide to stand with your total against whatever the dealer has.

To me adding 1 through 11 is not all that difficult, so I fail to see how blackjack is intimidating there. But it is also being said that strategy for blackjack is intimidating. Really?

Because the first form of blackjack strategy that comes to my mind is basic strategy, and I am sorry, there is no form of strategy that is easier.

Basic strategy is the most commonly used form of blackjack strategy. And it is a chart! If you can locate your hand total on the left side and locate the dealer’s up card—which is plainly visible on the table—along the top of the chart, you can use basic strategy. All you do is find where the lines of your hand and the dealer’s up card meet and make that play. That is all there is to it.

The hard work in basic strategy was done by the Four Horsemen a few decades ago. The basic strategy chart has the best statistical plays already figured out.

So all a blackjack player needs to do is add up the value of the first two cards, which is adding together two numbers which will range from 1 to 11. Then the blackjack player needs to check the basic strategy chart, find their hand total and the dealer’s up card, see where the lines intersect and make that play. The hardest part is adding up two numbers that will range between 1 and 11.

Blackjack rules, nor its strategy are difficult. And players do not even have to worry about what other players are doing; blackjack is a player vs. dealer card game—the plays of the other players are irrelevant.

To me that is not hard or intimidating at all. Now poker—that seems intimidating. But blackjack? Adding two numbers and locating a hand and dealer’s up card intersection? Not hard. I fail to see how blackjack is intimidating.

Once More with Feeling: Basic Strategy!

Everyday blackjack wins new players. These new players may come to the game in a brick and mortar casino, or perhaps they have tried it out in a game of online blackjack. But chances are they have heard that this is the casino game in which they could possible beat the house. Or at the very least that this is the game with the smallest house edge.

And while it is true that blackjack can have the lowest house edge, it does not happen automatically.

Be it online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, the game will start out with a house edge of 2% to 5%. This depends on what house rules are in effect.

But that house edge can be brought down to as low as 0.5%. How does this happen?

Actually it is quite easy to manage. All a player needs to do is play blackjack according to basic strategy. This is accomplished by checking your basic strategy chart to see what play is recommended. And then make that play.

That is all there it to it. Playing blackjack according to basic strategy lowers the house edge to 0.5% over time when every play is made according to what basic strategy says.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a chart with all player hands running down one side and all of the dealer’s up cards running across the top. When it is your turn to play, find your hand and the dealer’s up card; where those two lines intersect is the best play.

And that is the key: basic strategy is the best statistical play for every hand in blackjack. While you will not win every single hand, you win more hands than if you were to play without it.

And that is often the biggest mistake of players who are brand new to blackjack—they play on guess work.

Basic strategy can be used in casinos—they will let you bring a little chart with you and use it at the tables. It can also be used with online blackjack, so the benefits of this blackjack strategy can be used anywhere. It can also be used by anyone since it does not take much effort to make it work.

In fact your best odds for blackjack, be in online blackjack or blackjack in a casino, are with basic strategy since it is so effective against the house edge. And there is that factor that it is so easy to use!

Ultraviolet or Microchipped: What is Your Blackjack Chip Choice

With the fairly recent approval of table games for casinos in Pennsylvania, the latest debate is about what kind of casino chips to use at the blackjack tables. Casino managers voice their concerns about the security of chips at their blackjack tables.

Earlier this week I discussed how the Meadows in western Pennsylvania has already decided to use casino chips with micro chips embedded in them. They are meant to make for quick adding up of wagers made and for quick cash outs at the casino’s cage. But their primary focus is on reducing the chances of counterfeit chips finding their way onto the blackjack tables and into players’ hands.

But other western Pennsylvania casinos have decided against microchipped casino chips to help prevent counterfeit chips. Kevin Ryan, the director of table games at the Presque Isle Downs casino, says that the Presque Isle Downs is going to be using chips with an ultraviolet image embedded onto the chip at their blackjack tables. In regards to players trying to pass off counterfeit chips Ryan says, “It’s going to be next to impossible. It is not going to be worth their effort.”

While both casinos have players’ security at the forefront there is also their ever present concern of card counters and finding them.

The smart chips, the casino chips with microchips, will make it possible for smart casino staff to recognize card counters. An antenna will be under the felt at each position of the table that will add up the value of chips placed in the betting spaces. Staff will be able to more easily tell and track how a player is betting.

However, casinos that are using the ultraviolet chips will be more card counter friendly, not that any casino wants that, but that is how the technology works. The ultraviolet image will be good at helping to eliminate counterfeit chips, but since they are not embedded with a way for casino staff to track players’ wagers, it should not change what happens at the tables.

In short, the ultraviolet technology will be useful at the cage but will not really change anything at the blackjack tables.

If you are a blackjack player in the western Pennsylvania area and are a card counter, you might want to check out the casinos using the ultraviolet chips as the technology does not change how things happen at the blackjack tables.

Surrender as a Part of Your Blackjack Strategy

Surrender is often an over looked part of blackjack strategy. In fact, not every basic strategy card even tells you when to surrender. But in some instances you need to surrender because it is what is best for your blackjack odds.

Part of a blackjack strategy is knowing when to play offensively and when to play defensively. Surrender is a part of playing defensively. Blackjack strategy is about improving your odds to make the most in advantageous moments, and to minimize losses when the odds of a round are against you.

Surrender is one of those defensive plays that are meant to minimize your losses. It is kind of like folding in poker, except you only lose half of your wager instead of all of it.

We are going to look at early surrender. This is when you can give up half of your wager before making any plays and before the dealer checks for blackjack. This means that you can surrender, give up half of your wager, and still keep the other half even if the dealer has a natural blackjack.

Being able to make an early surrender gives a healthy boost to your blackjack odds. How much? Try an added 0.39% to your blackjack odds. That is how powerful early surrender is, and why any blackjack player worth their salt should not over look this blackjack player.

And as a little extra in this blackjack tip I will tell you when the best times to surrender are, since so many basic strategy charts out there do not tell you. See? They over look it too.

Okay, so the best times to surrender are when you have a hard 15 and the dealer has an up card of 10 or when you have a hard 16 and the dealer is showing an up card of 9, 10 or an Ace.

You want a good blackjack tip? Then surrender when you have one of those two hands and the dealer has any of those up cards. Do it and boost your blackjack odds. Sure you will lose half of your wager, but that is losing all of it, and that is why early surrender is a good defensive blackjack play.

Blackjack in the Gulf

Are you a blackjack player near coastal Louisiana or coastal Mississippi? If so you might just find your blackjack games at brick and mortar casinos beginning to show the effects of the two month old BP oil spill.

I am in no way saying that blackjack or gambling is more important than the animals or ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico that are being affected by the continuous flow of oil. Those animals and those ecosystems are way more important.

But as the summer tourism season gets underway coastal areas who rely on tourism will find that they are feeling the pinch of the oil spill in another way. It is likely that tourists will be choosing other destinations for their summer plans, which will hit areas hard. This will be an especially hard hit to areas that are still recovering from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

So what does this mean to blackjack fans in coastal Louisiana and costal Mississippi?

As tourism in those states and in those areas begins to show the affects of the BP oil spill in the form of a reduced number of tourists, one of two things could happen in casinos in regards to their blackjack tables.

One thing that could possibly happen is that casinos implement more 6-5 payouts at blackjack tables to help boost their profits. Or they could start using rules that increase the house’s edge, such as allowing the dealer to hit on a soft 17. Such steps to try to wring as much money out of blackjack players could increase their profits somewhat, but in the end, I think, it will drive blackjack players away.

On the other hand, casinos in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi could put forth blackjack games with player favorable blackjack rules, such as Charlies and doubling on any two cards. Blackjack players would flock to take advantage of such rules, and the casinos can bring in a profit from their accommodations and the breaks they take playing slot machines.

As the summer rolls in we will all see how tourism is affected by the oil spill, and blackjack players will see if they should in fact plan a trip to those coastal area casinos or to casinos in other areas. But if you do visit coastal Louisiana or Mississippi do not visit the beaches—I have heard it smells like burnt melted crayons.

Bad House Rule: Dealer Can Hit Soft 17

I have noticed something rather interesting of late pertaining to blackjack. There seems to have been an increase in blackjack games that allow the dealer to hit on a soft 17. And this happens with the casino industry being hit harder by a hurting economy and an increase in online blackjack.

On the surface a dealer hitting a soft 17 does not sound like too big of a deal. If you are shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Yeah, so what?’ then you obviously have no idea what a dealer hitting a soft 17 does to the house edge.

Let me ask you, would you like the house’s edge to be increased by 0.2%? No? Then you need to avoid playing blackjack games, be they online blackjack games or brick and mortar blackjack games, that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17. That house rule does exactly that: increase the house edge by 0.2%.

The reason for the increase is the same reason why blackjack players like being dealt Aces. Not only are they key to a natural blackjack, but Aces are the only flexible cards in blackjack. They start with a value of 11 but can be reduced to 1 if necessary. And that is why the house edge goes up if the dealer can hit a soft 17.

Sure the dealer has just as much of a chance of busting as a blackjack player does when hitting a soft 17, but when the dealer does not bust his chances of having a final hand total greater than 17 are also a lot higher. Hence the house increase of 0.2%

And 0.2% is a pretty good chunk. It can give back just under half of what basic strategy reduces the house edge to, making it increase from 0.5% to 0.7%. Why give the house anymore help increasing their odds against you? It is in the best interest for your blackjack odds and the effectiveness of your blackjack strategy to avoid blackjack games, online or not, that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17.

Splitting 8’s for Defensive Blackjack

When it comes to blackjack strategy it is important to understand that not all of your strategy should be focused on offensive playing. Meaning, it should not all focus on making money for you. Not every part of blackjack is in good order for you to win. If blackjack was a game that let you win all the time then online casinos and brick and mortar casinos would not offer it.

Anyway. Defensive blackjack strategy.

Regardless of whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino you must understand that there will be times when you are dealt a losing hand. It sucks. But it happens. And it is not the time to try to make money. So you play some defensive blackjack and try to minimalize your losses.

Being dealt a pair of 8’s is one of these hands that need defensive playing.

Looking at basic strategy and it shows you to split your pair of 8’s no matter what the dealer’s up card is. For the majority of up cards this makes sense. But some players wonder why they should split against a high card like a 10—to them it seems like they are only setting themselves up to lose more money.

But this is not the case. Because this is a losing hand—hey, face it, sometimes they happen—you need to look at what your percentage of losing is and how much you stand to lose.

If you do not split your pair of 8’s you can wither hit or stand. If you hit you have a 62% chance of losing; and if you stand you have a 77% chance of losing. So you split because starting a hand with 8 is somewhat better than starting with a 16 against a 10.

Now let’s look at this in terms of money. You know now that you will lose 62% of the time if you hit and 77% of the time when you stand on a pair of 8’s against a dealer’s 10. Because standing has a greater chance of losing we are not going to look at money, just know that it will be worse than the money lost on hitting.

Hitting would result in an expected loss of $54 per $100 wagered, whereas splitting results in an expected loss of $49 per $100. I know, it is not much of a difference, but every little bit helps in blackjack.

Remember that there are reasons behind the plays in basic strategy. They are the best statistical plays both in terms of offense and defense for blackjack. Even while losing hands do not give you the best chances of winning, you need to play for the best odds. If splitting 8’s is the best odds and has the smallest expected loss that is the way to play.